Lake Erie shipwreck identified as steam barge that sank off of Lorain in 1899

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LORAIN, Ohio– After decades of searching, a shipwreck near Lorain in Lake Erie was identified as the Margaret Olwill, a steam barge that sank in 1899.

The ill-fated steam ship was carrying 12 people and limestone from Kelley’s Island to Cleveland when it was hit by a nor’easter. Eight people died, including the captain, his wife and their 9-year-old son.

Cleveland Underwater Explorer, or CLUE, member Rob Ruetschle started searching for the wreck in 1989 and found a likely location that same year. But scans later revealed it wasn’t the elusive Olwill.

Covering a new, 25-square mile area, Ruetschle discovered the wreck on July 26, 2016. The wreckage consists of anchor chains, posts and framing from the deck house. Much of the debris in buried in mud.

The CLUE team returned for a second dive to confirm it was the long-sought after Margaret Olwill by comparing the wreckage to historical data.

The Margaret Olwill was built in Cleveland in 1887. Newspaper reports on the disaster said the four survivors clung to floating wreckage and were tossed by Lake Erie’s waves for hours.

One man was described as, “more dead than alive” when he was rescued, and one of the victims was nearly saved, but was too weak from exposure to grab a rope that he drown with the rescue ship within view.

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